Black Riverâ€™s boys basketball program has produced exactly two winning seasons since 1968-69 and has a lifetime record of 358-645 (.325).
First-year coach Bryan Morgan knows what heâ€™s getting into and inherits a unit that went 4-17 overall and 2-11 in the Patriot Athletic Conference.
If one thingâ€™s for sure, you can bet the former Oberlin Firelands junior varsity coach will do everything within his power to ensure the 50th season of Pirates basketball will be a competitive one.
â€œOne thing that weâ€™ve done so far is getting the kids to be proud of the program,â€ said the 25-year-old, who is the schoolâ€™s fourth coach in five seasons. â€œOnce they get that pride â€” they already have the work ethic â€” and once they learn about basketball, they will have some success.
â€œWeâ€™re looking to surprise some people and bring excitement back to Black River.â€
The Pirates lost six seniors to graduation, along with leading scorer Gabe Clark, who decided not to come out for the team. They return a mere 156 points from last year, with 93 of them from Dave Gentry.
Morgan elected to start from scratch and will employ a tight man-to-man defense to complement a fast-paced offense.
â€œWe donâ€™t have anybody over 6-foot-3, so we cannot play in a half-court set,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™re going to have to get the ball and run as well. I donâ€™t care if we donâ€™t run an offensive set all year as long as weâ€™re getting layups at the other end.
â€œDefensively we had to start with the basics with these guys. They didnâ€™t play good defense last year (allowing 59.9 ppg) and we wanted to teach basics before we moved on to anything else.â€
Headlining Black Riverâ€™s returnees is the speedy backcourt of Gentry and Miguel Quintela.
The 5-10 juniors saw significant action while splitting time between JV and varsity, and Gentry managed to average 5.2 points in 18 games.
Both play with tremendous energy and heart, which has Morgan intrigued.
â€œThose two all year long since we started would come in the morning and shoot and there wouldnâ€™t be anyone in there,â€ he said. â€œI think a lot of people see what theyâ€™ve done will pay off.â€
Travis Kimble (5-9, sr.) will start at small forward and the duo of David Metzger (5-8, jr.) and freshman John Sas (6-3) are slated to hear their names called in the post.
Chase Smith (F, 5-10, sr.) and Anthony Oâ€™Connor (F/G, 5-10, jr.) are the top two players off the bench, and Brandon Freeman (G, sr., 5-8), Christian Boyer (G, jr., 6-0) and Charles Seese (F, jr., 5-11) round out the roster.
Morgan knows the season in Sullivan Township might be a trying one, but there will be improvement.
â€œOur goal as coaches and players is to get as many six-year players in the program as we can,â€ he said. â€œThen we can keep building on our skills and knowledge of the game.â€